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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Put on your seatbelts

*WARNING*  This blog post is bound to make you prickle and squirm and feel a mite uncomfortable.  But that's okay,  because that's the point!  So click your seatbelts together and get ready for a ride!

We Americans are spiritually lukewarm...like that tepid bathwater or tea that no one wants and ends up throwing away.  We used to by hot and fire-y, but we sat out in the world, in room temperature, for too long.  If we stay out any longer we'll be as cold as ice.

I'd never really realized this before I went to Uganda.  On the way to Uganda, we had a 20 hour layover in Dubai.  Now, Dubai is a closed country...they don't allow Jesus into their culture.  It's one hundred and six degrees there and humid.  It's downright nasty!  But spiritually, it's cold...cold as ice.  Frigid.  The people there are so unfriendly and don't smile at you, if you can even see their mouth, unless you're buying something!

And then you get to Uganda, and you're immediately at ease!  There, the people are so friendly you get mobbed by them clamoring for hugs and keepsakes.  There, Jesus is the King of kings.  There, God reigns.  Those people are ON FIRE for God!  They are so bold for Jesus and are unafraid to ask you questions about yourself and how you feel about God.  There, they are hot!

And then there's America.  We are just lukewarm.  Some are hot, some are ice cold, and some are warmed over leftovers.  Am I making you shiver with a little aggression and defense?  Good!  This isn't a feel-good conversation.  This is a slap across the face to all of us Christians, myself included, who don't live a life that positively reflects Jesus or be active ministers whenever we have the chance.  There are thousands of opportunities to share Christ with our neighbors, classmates, coworkers, the people in our line at the grocery store...the waiter at the restaurant.  And you know what?  We actually HAVE the FREEDOM to DO ALL OF THIS!  In Dubai, they don't!  In China, not really!  But in America, have have the freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.  How about we USE these freedoms for a change??

Being an on-fire Christian takes being uncomfortable.  That's just the way it is.  The hard truth.  Deal with it.  (Remember, I'm giving this pep talk to myself too.)  Being a Christian isn't about being comfortable...do you think Paul was comfortable being chained to a wall?  Do you think Jesus was comfortable as he was being whipped and beaten and spit upon and nailed to a cross for you?  For love?  Following God isn't a walk in the park or a pleasant outing with your friends.  It's a war, a challenge, and sometimes painful.  So what?  Ultimately, it's not gonna matter.  As long as we believe in Jesus Christ, we're going to end up in Heaven no matter what happens here.  So let's do the work that we were called to do.  We were commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 to go and make disciples of all the nations.  Yes, that can include being here at home.  But, if that's what makes you comfortable, then maybe you need a change of scenery?  Or God may pull a trick card on you, and keep you in the world you're comfortable in, but push you to do things that are WAAAAAY outside of your "okay" zone.  Don't let that turn you off.  Being a Christian is a challenge, an adventure, a thrill.  Embrace it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trusting God...all the time!

Trust isn't always something that comes naturally.  Trust is built, like a house.  And in case you hadn't noticed, houses take a long, long, time to build.  Sometimes months!  And that's that same with trust.  However, just like a house, trust can be destroyed in an instant.

What I find strange, however, is that we trust people much easier than we trust God.  Now think about this.  It's kinda weird that we are most trusting of human, sinful, people than we are of a perfect and holy God!  :-o WHAT?!?!??!?!  This is insane!!  But, it has a lot to do with "seeing is believing."  We believe in things that we can physically see and/or touch.  At least, I know that's how it is with me...now if you're one who can trust God so easily, I applaud you!  And envy you...

I have this calender flip thing (I'm not sure exactly what it's called...).  For every day of the year, there is an encouraging quote or verse.  Yesterday, August 22, it said "When it is the hardest to trust God--that's the time when you should trust Him the most."  If I could show you my reaction, I would...it was *jawdrop* *facepalm* WOW!  ;)  

I get the Air1 verse of the day via email.  Now, being away for a month meant that they got backed up...A LOT!  So, I had some catching up to do!  Now this particular day, August 22, I was reading one of those verses sent in July.  And this is what it was: Psalm 62:8 "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."  AMENA!!!  

For Uganda, I had to trust God.  I HAD to!  There was no other option for me to get the money for the trip because it was a honking $5,000!  We don't have that much cash just lying around, especially not for a mission trip, which compared to bills and food and doctor visits, isn't as important.  But trust God I did.  And it was hard...really hard.  I remember going to my Dad a few days before our garage sale, which was the Saturday before the ticketing deadline when I had to have half of the money in.  I climbed up on his lap (yes I still fit, don't judge me!) and started crying my eyes out, sobbing that I wasn't going to get to go on the trip and I wasn't going to have enough money and all this other stuff.  I was pretty much freaking out!  But he told me that if God wanted me on the trip, He would provide.  I just had to trust.  So when I uncurled and went back upstairs, I prayed again, so hard, that God would not only provide the money to go, but would also provide me peace to trust Him.

Some of you know the rest of this story...I received a substantial amount of money within three days and had more than enough to meet the ticketing price!  And get this, the garage sale still hadn't happened!  I was astounded and then ashamed at how shocked I was.  The whole point of this was to trust the Lord!  I've had many instances since where I've had to trust the Lord and I will have many, MANY more.  Trust isn't something that only happens occasionally in the Christian walk.  Trust is a lifestyle!  How much do you trust the Lord?

We have so much here in America, it's harder to trust God.  But in Uganda, where they have so little, they trust God with their whole hearts!  Sure, they still worry about things such as sickness and having enough food, but looked to God and praised Him for everything that they did have!  During the three weeks I was in Africa, I got to talk to so many people who trusted the Lord.  Now we Americans, who live in a nation that was founded on Christian principles, are so...so...spoiled that we forget to trust the One who made us and gives us the breath we breathe!  But people in Uganda, who have dealt with war in their backyard and been beaten and scared and impoverished to the point of starving, yet they trust the Lord so much more!  You've heard it said that it's easier to trust God when things are going well.  That's how so many people live.  I, however, want to change that.

Today, I choose to trust God in EVERYTHING, in EVERY circumstance, in EVERY trial, in EVERY SINGLE THING!  I challenge you to do the same.  (By the way, I've tried this the past couple days, and boy, it makes your life so much freer!  Even if things still aren't going well, you're able to smile and dance in the rain.  After all, rain makes a beat with every drop that taps the ground!  Let's dance!)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Storytime with Angelica!!

For those of you who are dying for another Uganda story, don't fret!  Here it is!  One of many! :D

Part of what we did in Uganda was abstinence ministry.  To be honest, this was extremely awkward for me at first.  It was for everyone I think...but as time went on and we did it more and more, we got more comfortable.  After all, we were investing in the lives of these teens!

One day, I had one of those, divine appointments.  At one school I met a girl named Angel.  I was so ecstatic to meet a girl with my same name!  But when we opened the floor for the girls to come to us individually to ask more personal questions about abstinence and boys, a different girl named Teddy wanted to talk to me.  When we went to a more private part of the classroom, she confessed to me, "I struggle with wanting to fall in love.  How do I stop it?"

I was blown away.  God knew (DUH!!) to bring her to me.  I know exactly what she's struggling with and I was able to give her advice thusly!  And this is basically what I told her: "Pray, pray that God takes away the feelings you have if they are not from you.  You have big dreams and goals; right now you need to focus on school!  Get some accountability partners!  Tell your closest friends what you're struggling with and come up with a code for them to use when they see you starting to flirt or lose focus on school.  God will bring around the right guy for you at the right time, but you need to ask God to help you wait until that right time."

I didn't only advise her...I admonished myself.  I was telling myself, again, to wait!  I have bigger things I'm focusing on now and guys, I'm sorry, a romantic relationship doesn't make that cut!  It will one day, when God brings it around, but not for the next couple years.  I also encourage any young ladies reading this, and young men, you are not exempt from this, that you look to God now and become so lost in God that your future spouse will have to find God to get to you!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

College prep...for life!

On the 31st of August I move into my dorm at Indiana Wesleyan!!  I am so stoked!  Right now...my room looks like a bomb went off with clothes in piles all over the bed and the floor.  I have books piled up in different places, my four containers of substantial size that I store my notebooks in, two storage boxes for my dorm room, and other random items all over my room.  It looks like a danger zone...with no floor.

Last night I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor, which I had to clear away, because I knew that in order to sleep in my bed, I'd have to take 95% of the stuff off and put it on the floor.  Then, considering my clumsiness, I would trip over it in the morning.  It was ultimately safer to sleep on the floor!  :D

I get asked a lot if I'm nervous for school at all, and really, I'm not.  I'm only nervous about three things:
1.) sharing a room with someone (I've always had my own room)
2.) having a set schedule (being homeschooled I made my own schedule!)
3.) procrastinating

I am a terrible procrastinator.  If I don't want to do something, I put it off until the last possible minute and, usually, barely scrape by.  But I know that this will not bring me success in college.  I also know that I do react differently in different circumstances (when extra credit options are not made up out of the blue to keep me from failing), but that doesn't mean that after a while I don't get lazy.

I'm not dissing homeschooling in the least, don't get me wrong, but how we homeschooled helped this to grow.  I've always been a procrastinator, especially in subjects I didn't like such as math.  But when I was in high school, I was given late grades, opportunities to earn extra credit when Mom and Dad saw I was failing a class.  I kind of then just relied on those graces instead of my own learning.  I suspect that that will come and bite me in the behind in college in certain classes, but I'm also suspecting that I will be a better student.

For chemistry I was taught by a fellow homeschool mom who used to teach at a high school.  I was in a classroom setting with her two oldest sons.  She taught me very well and made chemistry fun because I was able to actually understand the subject!  Science usually was a blech-y subject for me, but in this instance, it was amazing!  Because I enjoyed it and understood it, I put forth more effort!  And because the expectations were different, I did more work than I usually would do.  Granted, when something was really difficult or, in the experiments, if something smelled extremely bad or was extremely gross, I would try to do as little as possible, but ultimately, I reacted much better to that class than most other subjects I'd had.

Now, for all you students reading this, DON'T DO WHAT I DID!! Yes, that's in all caps because it's important.  And yes, I am screaming at you.  DON'T DO WHAT I DID!  Be the better person!!! :D  Even if you don't plan to go to college, which is fine, you don't want to say that you "passed high school" but that you "beat high school"!  You want to say that you worked your hardest and didn't let it win!  You're going to get a job one day, move out...your boss is going to want a hard worker who does all they can and more!  Your spouse is going to want a help meet who doesn't sit around all day and eat bon bons and potato chips!  Doing your best in high school isn't just about getting ready for advanced education, it's about life!  Our teen years are our growing up years, and if we grow up being procrastinators, it's going to be hard to change that lifestyle when we're adults!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Testimony time!

So, some of you may be dying to hear about things that happened while in Uganda.  :P  Well, now you'll get to hear some stories!!!  Some are my personal stories and some are not, but they all are amazing stories of God's grace and mercy and love!  :D

On our first day of hut-to-hut ministry, our fifth day in Uganda, my ministry group and I went walking just a few minutes away from our hostel.  There we came across a mother, her three children, her sister, and another young woman.  They invited us into their home, a very small house with maybe three rooms.  They offered us sodas, which they paid for themselves.  It was hard to say yes, but it was even harder to say no.  We didn't want to offend them, but we didn't want them to spend their precious shillings on us!

We talked to them and offered prayers for each individual there.  The mother, Barbara, has three sons: Johnathan, Joseph, and Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is just a little baby, not yet a year old.  Before we left, I asked if I could pray a special blessing over Jeremiah.  God says that the kingdom of the Lord belongs to the little children.  Mark 9:43 says "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea."  Jesus doesn't kid around when he's talking about children, no pun intended.  Kids are pretty darn special to God!  I felt led to pray for little Jeremiah and I will continue to pray for him, that he will grow up under God's wings of protection.  :)

That same day, we had an unexpected street ministry opportunity because we were an hour early to a school.  T.I.A.!!! :D  My ministry group, more fondly and commonly known as a MIG, went and met the pastor of the village, a woman named Margaret.  She took us to her church, which is a shelterhouse of sorts with fabric lining the walls and a dirt floor.  I remembered a teaching tape that my mom was studying about the spiritual gifts from Romans 12:6-8.  In that teaching, the speaker talked about a time when he went to a church in a very sinful community.  He could feel the demonic grasp on the land around the church but felt God's presence in the church.  So when praying, he would pray "for the church and the land the church sits upon."  And every time he returned to pray again, he could feel the demonic forces retreating ever so slightly and the presence of the Lord growing!  So when we reached Margaret's church and learned that witchcraft is very prevalent in that community, I couldn't stop thinking about that teaching and the results of the prayers.  At first, I just walked around the perimeter of the inside, knowing I could get in trouble for being alone outside.  But...I felt as if I was going to leave the ministry with the job "half-done" if I didn't, so I walked around the outside of the church, praying the same thing over and over.  "Lord, bless this building and the land it sits upon.  Expand the circle of light until it spills over into the next village, the next town, the next country."

Even though America isn't Africa, we still need these prayers!  We may live in a more "Christian" nation, with more freedoms, but that doesn't mean we should "save the prayers for the less-fortunate".  Prayer is for everyone.  So pray for your church.  Pray for your pastor.  Pray for your congregation.  Pray without ceasing.  :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The story behind the title

Every title has some sort of background behind it; a story to tell.  Being a writer, this is something very close to my heart...after all, I live for telling the story that the title begins!  Lately, I feel as if I've been able to better execute the story so that it is told in an interesting manner, such as with bigger words and a more personable attitude.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Hebrews.  Hebrews and Romans are just so...AH!  :D  The first two verses of Hebrews say "Therefore we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith."  That first verse always makes me think of a caterpillar in a cocoon.  That cocoon is a cage, keeping the caterpillar from being free.  But after a while, it sheds the hard case and a beautiful butterfly comes out!

I have always been fascinated by caterpillars and butterflies.  In Uganda, there were these spikey-antlered fuzzpillars that I likened to reindeer.  During my quiet time one morning, there were dozens of these reindeer caterpillars crawling up the tree I was under.  They would crawl up the tree to reach the limbs, but often fell down.  They'd lay there on the ground, stunned, for a while, but after ten minutes or so, they would right themselves and go back to trying to get up that tree!  This happened fifteen or twenty times!  As I sat there, I thought about verse two, and how these caterpillars beat me in perseverance.  How many times do we give up after the third or fourth fall?  We don't allow ourselves to fall twenty times...it hurts too much!

As they continued to fall and fail to reach their destination, I was so tempted to pick them up and try to put them on the closest limb, or at least start them off closer to their final destination.  But I didn't.  It made me wonder, though, how often God wants to just scoop us up in his hands (his hands are big enough for that you know) and set us down, safe and sound, where we need to be.  But he doesn't.  James 1 says that perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  Let me repeat that...not lacking anything.  Our goal in life is to live like Jesus, to be perfect...that means lacking nothing.  So...we have to persevere.  Ouch.

As I continued reading Hebrews 12 in that quiet time, I was struck by verses 7 and 11.  "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.  For what children are not disciplined by their father?  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  Read that again.  I'll wait...

We are God's children.  He loves us.  And a father disciplines those he loves.  These disciplines are often trials and tribulations.  And James 1:2 tells us to view such disciplines with joy because then we will reap a harvest of spiritual and physical blessings and a whole lot of peace!  :D  I like peace, don't you?

During my quiet time, I realized that animals have such a drive to complete their calling.  They do what God has commanded them to do, no questions asked.  We very rarely see animals conforming to the way of this world.  You don't go to the store and seeing a cat going grocery shopping!  That's just not normal!  But we humans...oh we humans are messed up!  We go against what God asks us to do day in and day out, even when we don't realize it.  But we were different...we're special...we have a chooser inside of us that helps us determine right or wrong.  God loves us and he didn't want us to be his robots or his puppets, but to be free.  But with freedom comes trials.  Animals seemingly have easy lives.  But don't be discouraged.  No!  We have a greater calling than animals, which thus calls for greater trials: we were called to CHANGE THE WORLD!

This is my prayer, and I encourage you to adopt a similar attitude:  Lord Jesus, catch me when I fall so I don't hit the ground so hard I can't get back up.  But don't pick me up and put me where I need to be, but rather give me the strength to get there.

I want to soar high on wings...butterfly wings.  I want to become a butterfly, bold and beautiful.  A butterfly travels and specified path that it doesn't even understand, a path that is programmed into their minds.  It knows it's the way to life, even though it may die on the way.  It has struggles along the way, but the butterfly doesn't stray from the path because if it does, it will surely die.  I want to be a butterfly and follow God's path for my life with unwavering persistence and without questions.

I am becoming a butterfly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Welcome!

Wow...this is it!  My very own blog!  It's hard to believe isn't it?  Meh...maybe!  :P

This blog is going to document the highlights of my life, and maybe even some of the minute details.  It will often be like reading a novel, but each post will be MUCH shorter than a full-length book.  (Yes, I can hear you thanking me!)  I will share with you my joys and my sorrows, my excitements and my fears, my good times and my bad times.  But most important, I will be sharing with you stories of how God has worked in my life and what He has been teaching me. :D  You will step into my world, (some of you may be minorly frightened right now, and that's okay), and get to know me in a deeper way.  Some things I say may make you uncomfortable; I may confront you, not personally, with things that may make you tingle.  But you know?  That can be a good thing!  Challenges are good when they make you grow as a Christian! :D

Enjoy your stay in my world!  :D